Barack Obama’s curiously tardy release of his long form birth certificate may have confirmed one of our alternative theories on why he was acting so strangely in the matter. . ..arrogance ? exemplified by ignoring citizen queries for several years and then releasing the document as soon as someone raised questions who might actually endanger his second term. The incident certainly illustrates that if you want to get Obama to move on something the best approach is to call in a Republican politician. He responds to them more favorably than he does, say, to liberal Democrats.
On the other hand, his odd secrecy may have been just a campaign-inspired attempt to keep the Obama myth together.
Consider this from the British Guardian concerning recently obtained US government documents about his father’s immigration status:
“As early as 1961, a memo in the file notes a statement from a Mrs McCabe, a foreign student adviser at the University of Hawaii: ‘Mrs McCabe further states that Subject [Obama senior] has been running around with several girls since he first arrived here and last summer she cautioned him about his playboy ways. Subject replied that he would ‘try’ to stay away from the girls.'”
Obama was born in August of the year that his father promised to stay away from girls – albeit, according to none other than US immigration officials, in Hawaii.
One can imagine Obama’s campaign advisors mulling over this situation and deciding it was best to suppress information about the candidate’s birth, just as they would about Obama working for a CIA connected company, not to mention his mother’s and grandfather’s ties to the agency. That sort of stuff just complicates campaigns..
The problem with such an approach is that it can lead eventually to the kind of mess in which Obama would find himself. Suppressing a politician’s past can greatly expand the public imagination.
Theoretically, it is the media’s job to straighten out the facts, but much of the press has lost interest in such things. Contempt for honest inquiry has soared in the past couple of decades. Before the Washington press became so thoroughly embedded in the White House and so beholden to its interpretation of events, real reporters considered unresolved issues as their business. As with a detective’s investigation, anomalies remained on the work list until they were settled. This didn’t mean you reached any conclusion, but neither did you avoid investigating all possible explanations.
But in this instance, as is so often the case these days, unapproved skepticism was ridiculed even as the same media failed even to help its readers and viewers understand why the conclusions many had jumped to lacked merit. They were just treated as certified idiots unworthy of a logical explanation.
Forgotten in all this was that similar questions had turned up early in the 2008 campaign about John McCain, who was born in the Panama Canal Zone. In his case, there was no ranting about birthers, however. Instead legislation was introduced to make sure McCain ? as a military child ? was entitled to be considered a “natural born citizen.” One of the sponsors was Senator Barack Obama, who said, “Senator McCain has earned the right to be his party’s nominee, and no loophole should prevent him from competing in this campaign.” Eventually, a Senate resolution was unanimously passed declaring McCain to be a natural born citizen.”
The Progressive Review was one of the few journals to review the real history of the issue of “natural citizen” including the fact that one president ? Chester Arthur ? and six actual or possible presidential candidates also had birth problems. And that all of them were Republicans.
In a good piece on the topic, Tom Rogan pointed out:
The Naturalization Act of 1790 provided that “the children of citizens of the United States that may be born beyond Sea, or out of the limits of the United States, shall be considered as natural born Citizens.” . . .
In United States v Wong Kim Ark, the US Supreme Court ruled that a child born in the United States to two US domiciled foreign parents not serving with a foreign government was a natural born citizen. This set the precedent that natural born citizenship could be granted by the principle of “jus soli”, or citizenship from birth in the United States. However, as illustrated by the Naturalization Act, jus soli cannot account for all Americans. To fill the space of absent court clarification on American citizens born abroad, Congress has provided statutory definition for natural born citizenship.
Title 8, section 1401 of the US Title Code provides these definitions to include (among other qualifying citizens) those born abroad to one American parent and one foreign parent, provided the American parent spent five years in the US prior to the child’s birth. The strength of section 1401 is in its clarification of the clause in a logical manner, compatible with the constitution and in a way that can account for American citizens not physically born in the United States.
Unfortunately, Rogan’s article didn’t appear until a few days before Obama produced his certificate ? and in the British Guardian, not an American publication.
The point is not that those thinking Obama was born elsewhere would have been convinced by all this, but that it is the media’s duty to provide information and not just add to the ridicule of those with doubts. To not address the unanswered questions merely speeds the rush to ill formed conclusions. By this failure, liberals and the media actually helped expand the birther movement.
Secondly, it is the job of the media to distinguish between that which is known and that which isn’t. In this case, there was no evidence that Obama was born anywhere but in Hawaii, but it was also clear that he was hiding an important document in the case.
Instead of pressing him, the media treated the long form certificate as either immaterial or legally unavailable. Linda R. Monk, wrote recently:
“Various news accounts only muddied the issue. Factcheck.com verified the validity of the 2008 Hawaii certificate, but questions remained about the pre-existing certificate that would have been on file in 1961, ostensibly with more extensive birth information. Yet thus far no news reporter had actually seen such a document. Hawaii officials said only that they’ve seen the 1961 document ‘according to state laws and procedures,’ whatever that meant. On July 23, 2009, CNN producer Jon Klein announced his researchers found that Hawaii had converted its records to an electronic database in 2001 and all paper records were destroyed. Hawaii officials disputed that account.”
Somehow, however, as soon as it became convenient, Obama’s lawyers managed to produce the document in less than ten days.
We have so politicized our discussions that both sides refuse to recognize uncertainties and anomalies. And much of the media has happily joined the political shouting match instead of serving as a reasoned arbitrator.
I’ve been in this racket for over a half century but it was only in the last couple of decades that raising questions about uncertainties became socially unacceptable.
I first ran into this problem covering the Clinton scandals. To this day, the drug, crime and corruption that surrounded Arkansas’ politics during Clinton’s rise is considered by liberals and the embedded media to be only of interest to “haters” and “conspiracy theorists.” In fact, it is a fascinating and important true saga involving not only drugs and misbehavior by the CIA, but key elements of the BCCI and savings & loan scandals (forerunners of our current fiscal disaster).
None of my stories were ever challenged on a factual basis save by the pilot for major drug dealer Barry Seal, not necessarily the most reliable voice on the topic. For many of the rest it was enough to say things like, “You don’t really believe that Republican crap, do you?” I would point out that the first leads I got had come from a progressive student group at the University of Arkansas but it just didn’t matter. I even got banned from CSPAN and a Washington NPR program because of my stories.
Liberalism had become the abused spouse of the Democratic right, the media the abused spouse of whoever was in the White House, and facts their neglected offspring.
In fact, Clinton and Obama only got to be president after being thoroughly vetted by the establishment. Neither had a single achievement that qualified them for the post other than that powerful insiders felt they were safe and would do their bidding. And they did. The destruction of the legacy of the New Deal and Great Society would turn out to be an inside job.
Meanwhile, facts were at best a filler between arguments on TV about what really mattered now — perception and image. Facts were background noise at news conferences, multi-colored jimmies on scoops of policy, and just plain annoying in private conversation.
At times I felt trapped in the compound of some bizarre cult of overwrought rhetoric, infantile premises, and manic mythology. There were no ideas, only spin; no ideology, only icons; no inquiry or discussion, only conflicting arrogant certitude.
Stories with incomplete portions about which one is not meant to ask questions flourished in the last couple of decades, significantly during the very time of economic and cultural collapse when we could have used some more realism. Reporters used to treat such unfinished stories as unfinished business. But the social and job consequences of asking too many questions put a lid on all that and the comfy correspondents in the White House now preferred that no one else asked too many questions either.
The birth certificate story is a small but illustrative example. Yes, the facts said that Obama was born in Hawaii but they also said he was acting like someone who was hiding something. No reporter should have been ashamed of asking why.
It is what reporting was once about but too rarely is anymore.
Sam Smith edits the Progressive Review.